Home to many a rain-jacketed free spirit, Portland has been hip to elopements for some time now. After all, shucking tradition is practically its middle name. It’s a haven for vegan eateries, has more microbreweries than any other city, offers year-round tax-free shopping, and is home to the largest independent bookstore (Powell’s City of Books takes up an entire block). Not to mention, one of its most popular summertime events is the Adult Soapbox Roller Derby, for which locals decorate home-built coaster cars and careen down the side of Mount Tabor. But even if the eccentric or offbeat isn’t your cup of tea (or should we say, mug of craft beer), Portland is a stellar elopement destination. Just take its nature side: It boasts a whopping 328 parks, putting 90 percent of its residents within a 10-minute walk of one. And as the City of Roses, it doesn’t disappoint. In Washington Park, you can find more than 4 acres teeming with buds of all colors. And yes, you can elope amongst them (more on that below).
Best Time of Year to Visit
June - August
The natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest lends itself to outdoor exploration—and that’s best done during the warm, dry months of Portland’s summer. Highs in the 70s with cooler evenings make the weather ideal for breezy couples’ portraits, a hike through one of the city’s many green spaces, or a stroll alongside the Willamette River. The 1.5-mile riverside stretch that is Tom McCall Waterfront Park is also alive with events in the summer, like the Oregon Brewers Festival and the Portland Rose Festival. And speaking of the city’s namesake flower, Portland’s roses hit peak bloom each June, making summer the best time to revel in their romantic glory. If you’re looking to avoid the tourist rush, consider visiting in May or September—these shoulder months tend to see nice weather and lower rates—but avoid winter. Though Portland doesn’t typically see much snowfall, it’s notorious for midday rain showers from October through April.
The love-child of a mod urban venue and a lush greenhouse, this elopement charmer lies at the heart of Portland’s up-and-coming Slabtown district. Tucked inside the Pomarius Nursery, Blockhouse consists of a minimalist, high-ceilinged indoor space that opens into a covered patio and canopied section of the nursery—all of which are fair game for tying the knot and hosting an intimate meal. And the nursery itself boasts a stunning array of unique photo ops, thanks to its eclectic collection of witty topiaries, Belgian boxwoods, and textural succulents and perennials native to Portland. Inside, an open-concept kitchen makes this spot an easy choice for foodies: The hand-crafted wooden chef’s table will put your caterer’s work on gorgeous display. Rentals of the space can include in-house bar services, as well as a couple tables, a wooden bar, lounge furniture, and bistro lighting; inquire at email@example.com for current rates.
Portland may be rife with parks, but for the outdoorsy-est, adventure-seeking elopers, the Columbia River Gorge—about 45 minutes east—is an unparalleled destination to wed (that is, if it’s just you two, or a small, well-abled group). This deep canyon of the Columbia River is the largest designated National Scenic Area in the country, and just a few minutes into your visit, it’ll be easy to see why: It’s home to striking rocky bluffs and cliffs, misty evergreen forests, and waterfalls aplenty, including Oregon’s tallest, Multnomah Falls. In spring, hike the Rowena Plateau Loop in the eastern gorge to shoot portraits amid a bed of wildflowers; in autumn, trek to the base of Latourell Falls, which gains intensity in the cooler months, its surrounding green foliage shrouded by a romantic fog. Any time of year, escape to the secluded grassy peninsula that is Government Cove for sweeping views of the river and the sun setting beneath the Cascade mountains. And if you’re willing to strap on your boots and put in the steps, there’s no shortage of other trails and hidden overlooks to explore—the entire area is, well, gorge-ous (had to).
In a part of the country known far and wide for its wine, we’d be remiss not to include at least one vino-centric venue. Enter: This small-batch winery with an industrial-chic garage setting. All of its wines are made with grapes sourced from Oregon, Washington, and California, delivering the richness and depth of wine-country straight to Portland’s funky Buckman neighborhood. Lit by string lights, its rustic barrel room offers a secluded spot to get married and toast your big day with, of course, a bottle of Enso’s finest (rental costs $200 per hour, including set-up and clean-up, and the alcohol minimum for the group is $250). You can also pair your sips with a few black-walnut charcuterie boards filled with locally made salami, cheese, and bread (for an additional $7 per person). And if you’re looking to spruce the place up with custom arrangements, Enso’s got that covered, too: The winery’s general manager is also a part-time florist, reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a city known for its natural spaces, Hoyt Arboretum stands out. And not just because its diverse collection of spruces, redwoods, pines, firs, and cedars physically stand taller than most. In the spring, more than 60 cultivars of magnolias and dogwoods turn Hoyt beautifully pastel, and in fall, hundreds of maples cover it in scarlet and gold. Though it’s criss-crossed by over 12 miles of hiking trails, perhaps its most scenic spot is the Redwood Deck, a wooden terrace set amongst its towering redwood collection and overlooking Johnson Creek. Three benches make it a peaceful setting to gather a few loved ones for intimate “I do’s” and a newlywed toast. Or, check out Stevens Pavilion, a picturesque spot offering shelter and plenty of opportunities to hang twinkle lights.
Because it’s located in Washington Park, you’ll need to follow the Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) process for obtaining a permit to reserve the space and host your ceremony—that is, if your group contains more than just you two, your officiant, and your two witnesses (otherwise, no need). Your first option would be to enter the lottery (for a fee of $121.25), typically held in November for wedding dates between March and December of the following year; to book a date in January or February, just call PP&R’s customer service line at 503-823-2525. Missed the lottery deadline? On January 2, additional reservations for that year are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis across park locales via online request. Once you’ve secured your date, you can expect to pay a fee of about $222 to rent the Redwood Deck (this was the 2020 rate), plus a $250 security deposit.
What’s more romantic than a rose? Try 10,000 rose bushes, a-bloom with more than 600 varieties in a rainbow of shades. Originally designed to protect European roses during World War I, the International Rose Test Garden continues to be a safe haven for growing and testing hybrids of all origins. Lucky for flower lovers the world over, the tiered 4.5-acre space is also free and open to the public, all of it a fragrant, gorgeous backdrop for portraits. One particularly stunning section: the Gold Medal Garden, which holds only those roses from the American Garden Rose Selection testing area that received this prestigious ranking. It’s also home to a gazebo and water feature, making it a picture-perfect elopement locale. Because the International Rose Test Garden is located in Washington Park, like Hoyt Arboretum above, the reservation process applies for groups bigger than just you two and your two witnesses. Once you receive a date, you’ll be given the option to rent the garden for a 2-hour block between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. at a fee of about $500.
For a truly elevated elopement, head to the crest of a dormant volcano (don’t worry, it’s been extinct for over 300,000 years). Built around the volcanic cinder cone that is Mount Tabor, its namesake park was designed with several open-air reservoirs, miles of walking trails, and grassy knolls filled with native trees and plants—not to mention, the long staircases leading to its summit. Take the trek skyward, and the 360-degree view will be more than worth it. You’ll exchange “I do’s” in a grove of maples and Douglas firs overlooking Portland’s southeast skyline and Mount Hood in the distance. Similar to the above, this is a spot maintained by Portland Parks & Recreation, so if you plan to have more than yourselves, your officiant, and your two witnesses at your wedding ceremony, you’ll need to reserve a date and pay for access via the wedding lottery or request system. The reservation fee for the summit of Mount Tabor was $396 in 2020.
Elopements are the specialty of this gothic-style nondenominational church just off the banks of the Willamette River, in the quaint neighborhood of Sellwood. Built in 1851, Oaks Pioneer Church has been expanded upon and relocated several times in its history—but a recent restoration has returned its original charm, equipping it with period furnishings like antique ceiling chandeliers, a pump organ, and wooden pews. Exchange vows in classic-retro style by booking the elopement package, which accommodates parties of up to 12 people. For $750, you’ll get an officiant, use of the space (including a dressing room) for 1.5 hours, and a seasonal bouquet from Sellwood Flower Company. Then, take a stroll and shoot newlywed photos in the adjoining Sellwood Park, or keep the vintage vibes going with a trip to next-door neighbor, Oaks Amusement Park. Opened in 1905, it’s one of the oldest ones in the country, boasting classic carnival games and rides like a merry-go-round, ferris wheel, and more.
Many, many miles from Pennsylvania Avenue lies another white house—this one, a thriving luxury bed-and-breakfast that welcomes all visitors. Portland’s White House occupies the city’s stately Irvington district, known for its Colonial Revival-style mansions and manicured lawns. Although the inn has been a charming wedding locale for years, a million-dollar renovation in 2019 now gives it a leading edge: Each of its nine guest rooms have been remodeled and re-furnished, and a new executive chef has revamped the daily breakfast menu and farm-to-table catering options for events. Book the elopement package, and you’ll get use of the main living room, grand entry staircase, or courtyard for two hours between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to host your ceremony and reception (up to 10 people total); this deal also includes a small wedding cake, two bottles of Champagne, and a two nights’ stay (with breakfast each day). The total is $1750, plus a $150 coordinating fee, and a variety of extras—like cheese platters and crudite towers—are also available at additional cost from the in-house caterers.
Tanner Springs marries the urban, artsy vibe of the Pearl District—home to culinary standouts including Peruvian hotspot Andina and Mediterranean Exploration Company—with the natural beauty Portland’s known for. Built atop wetlands (since diverted into the Willamette River), Tanner Springs doesn’t stray far from its aquatic history, with sculptural paths zigzagging over waterways created by storm runoff and a sparkling koi pond. The geometric boardwalk above the pond makes a stunning ceremony locale with the backdrop of Artwall, a 200-foot-long installation of recovered rail tracks interspersed with blue glass from local Bullseye Glass Co. To tie the knot here among friends and family, you’ll need to go through the same reservation process as for the above parks and gardens (the fee in 2020 for this spot was $204); if it’s just the two of you and your witnesses, however, you can wing it day-of. Once you’ve done the deed, keep the sweet times rolling with a stop at nearby Portland classic, Voodoo Doughnuts.
Getting a marriage license in Portland is simple, especially now that its county, Multnomah, is temporarily issuing them via mail in response to the pandemic. Both of you just need to be 18 or older and have a valid photo ID. You’ll begin the process by completing the online marriage application, printing and signing the document provided, and mailing it to the Multnomah County Marriage License Office (PO Box 2716 Portland OR 97208) along with a copy of each of your photo IDs and $60 in certified funds (cashier’s check or money order). You can expect to receive your license in the mail within about two weeks. If you’d like to waive the three-day waiting period, include an additional $5 in your packet; after that period, the license is valid for 60 days for a ceremony held anywhere in the state of Oregon. This needs to be officiated by someone authorized by a religious congregation or secular organization, an Oregon or federal judge, or a United States magistrate judge, and witnessed by at least two adults. For more information on the marriage-license process in Portland, visit the Multnomah County website.